When Alex awoke next, she discovered Bobby was no longer beside her. She sat up quickly, fear clutching at her gut, only to cry out as pain flared through her arm and shoulder. She collapsed back to the ground, shutting her eyes and waiting for the pain to subside to a tolerable level before trying again. While she lay there, she felt movement beside her, and looked to find Bobby had appeared, and was sitting next to her.
“Hey,” she mumbled, relieved to see him awake and apparently alert. “How’re you feeling?”
“Still hurting,” he admitted, gently helping her to sit up. “Better, though. You did a good job.”
She looked down athis stomach wound, and guessed that his ambiguous reply of ‘still hurting’ was most likely a massive understatement. The flesh was red and raw, and looked as painful as her leg felt, but at least it was sealed over. She could only hope and pray that there was no internal bleeding.
“It’ll be okay,” he murmured, answering her unspoken fears. “It’s been a while, now. If there was any internal bleeding…”
He left the obvious unsaid. If there had been internal bleeding, he probably would have been dead by now. She groaned softly, trying to balance herself to take any excess pressure off her wounded leg without aggravating her injured arm.
“I suppose we’re going to have to get moving again, aren’t we?”
He looked regretful.
“Well… If we stay here, he’ll find us sooner or later.”
Alex felt her spirits start to sink once more, and found herself snapping at him before she could reign in her frustration.
“Just how far do you think we’re going to get, Bobby? I can hardly walk… You can’t walk. What does it matter whether we go or stay? Either way, he is going to catch up to us sooner or later. Probably sooner, given our luck so far.”
He didn’t flinch away from her anger, but rather smiled a little, then looked to his broken leg. She followed his gaze and, to her astonishment, saw that his leg had been braced using a long piece of wood that was tied with strips of material that she recognised as being the mutilated remains of his trouser legs. Both of his pants legs were gone now, she noted, leaving him wearing nothing more than a ragged pair of shorts that used to be an expensive pair of trousers.
He had braced his own leg, she thought incredulously. God, that must have hurt.
She looked back at him to find him holding a length of wood in one hand, and spare strips of material in the other.
Bobby smiled in amusement, one hand going to his face and rubbing over his growing beard.
“Would you hit me if I made the obvious reply to that?”
She smirked at him.
“You mean if you were about to make a crack about me being your ‘Girl Friday’? Definitely.”
He laughed, and Alex felt a rush of warmth at the sound. Their situation was so bleak that the sounds of either of them laughing were moments to be savoured.
She cringed in pain a moment later as he pulled tight the material he was using to tie the makeshift brace to her broken arm.
“Sorry,” he murmured. “But it has to be tight.”
She let her breath out in a long hiss.
“S’okay. I tell you, when I get my gun back, Mathers is so going down.”
Bobby smiled again, not so much amused now as relieved and grateful to see the spark back in her eyes, and hear a rejuvenated spirit in her voice. They had been through hell together over the last few days, and the negativity, depression and increasing despair they’d both suffered had left him feeling confused and a little afraid.
He was no stranger to those emotions, of course, and neither was Alex. But he was also accustomed to her generally positive, ‘kick-butt’ attitude… her often caustic wit… on the whole, the way she kept him grounded, and connected to reality. The truth was, he honestly had not realised until now just how much he relied on her to keep himself positive and focused. He was more grateful than he was capable of expressing to see that part of her personality surfacing once more.
“What are you thinking?” she asked, watching him curiously. He smiled at her, that small, sweet smile that he seemed to reserve only for her.
“Just how glad I am that we’re together.”
She looked away quickly, feeling a sudden, unpleasant rush of guilt for her pleas to him the previous night to leave her and try to save himself. She didn’t really know what she had been thinking when she’d begged him to do that. The only explanation she could think of was that she had been half out of her mind with fear and pain. She would never be able to fully express to him her gratitude that he had disregarded her pleas.
She looked back at him slowly, reluctantly, and for an instant she recalled the hurt in his eyes the previous night when she’d told him to leave her. Then, the vision was gone, and she was looking into a pair of brown eyes that were full of understanding.
“It’s okay,” he told her. “You were hurting. It wasn’t your fault.”
Tears began to trickle down her cheeks before she could stop them. He reached out and gently drew her to him in a soothing embrace, taking care not to press against her injured arm. They sat there together in silence for a while, before Alex finally drew back out of his embrace.
“We’d better move. Are you sure you can walk?”
“Yeah,” he muttered, dragging himself across the ground to the tree, and hauling himself to his feet. “Can’t exactly run, but yeah, I think can walk.”
She looked doubtful as she got up, but said nothing. If he could cope with walking on a badly broken leg, then she could cope with walking on her injured leg.
“Do you want a stick or something to lean on?” he asked, and she momentarily felt a rush of anger at the apparent insinuation of weakness, until she looked around to see him positioning a long, thick branch under his arm to use as a crutch.
“I found it earlier, while you were still asleep,” he said by way of explanation. “I stripped it clean… Figured I’d be needing it.” He pointed to the ground nearby, and she saw a second branch, also stripped clean. “Did one for you, too, if you want it.”
Alex smiled faintly, touched by his thoughtfulness. Leaning over, she picked it up, and positioned it carefully under her right arm.
“Thanks, Bobby.” She paused, then had to smile at the sight the two of them made. “Look at us. We look like a couple of bums.”
Bobby chuckled softly. “At least we’re both in good company.”
Alex’s grin widened.
“C’mon, Robinson. Let’s go.”
He returned her grin.
“After you, Friday.”
She took a swing at him with the stick as she went past, sending them both into fresh peels of laughter. They headed into the trees, still laughing.
While most of them could do little more than wait, Deakins spent the better part of his time at the small table, studying the maps they had brought with them with absolute single-mindedness. He didn’t stop until Horatio finally coaxed him outside under the pretext of needing his opinion on something.
“Captain Deakins… if you don’t mind me asking… when was the last time you got any sleep?”
It was with some effort that Deakins controlled his temper. He could see the Miami lieutenant was genuinely concerned, but all the same he did not appreciate being dictated to by a junior officer, no matter how sincere their intentions. As it was, he couldn’t keep his voice entirely free of irritation
“I don’t see how that is any of your concern.”
Horatio nodded slowly, not the slightest bit perturbed by Deakins’ acerbic reply.
“That may be, but what is my concern is the welfare of your two missing detectives. And what does concern me is how their chances of survival may be affected because their captain is suffering from sleep deprivation.”
Deakins contemplated Horatio’s words in silence. When he eventually spoke, Horatio couldn’t miss the exhaustion and the emotional pain his voice.
“Lieutenant Caine, I doubt that I could sleep even if I wanted to. I understand what you’re saying, but it just is not possible at the moment. Tell me… have you ever had any of your people go missing? Do you have any idea what it’s like?”
“No,” Horatio conceded quietly. “I don’t…”
“Well, I hope you never have to find out.”
“But I do know what it’s like to lose one of them. One of my team was shot and killed in front of me.”
Deakins looked questioningly at him.
“Recently enough. It happened three or four months ago.”
“I’m sorry. But perhaps you can understand why I can’t relax. Bobby and Alex are out there somewhere. We know at least one of them is hurt, possibly seriously. I can’t sleep, knowing that bastard Erik Mathers could be out there hunting them down right now. It’s hard enough knowing we have to wait until dawn for Search & Rescue. I can’t rest. Not until we have them back safe.”
“I understand,” Horatio murmured, his respect for Deakins increasing ten-fold. The truth was that there were few superior officers around who would personally go to these lengths for his subordinates. Bobby Goren and Alex Eames were damned lucky to have such a man as their captain.
“Why did you come here, Lieutenant?”
Horatio looked at Deakins, momentarily confused.
“To New York, I mean. You didn’t have to come. You could just as easily have sent us all the information you had without going to the trouble or the expense of mobilising your entire team.”
Horatio hesitated in answering.
“We could have done that,” he agreed quietly. “If it had been any other killer, we might have done that. But this man… You have to understand, Captain Deakins, we had the best people available in the state of Florida working the case, and we never came close to catching him. I’m not here to carry out any vendetta or grudge on behalf of Miami. I’m here because I know how deadly this man really is. The last thing I wanted to do was to step on anyone’s toes…”
“Don’t misunderstand me, Lieutenant,” Deakins interrupted gently. “I’m grateful that you’re here. From what Mack has reported to me, you have a damned fine team working for you, and having the extra help has been a blessing for all of us. I was just curious to know why you felt you had to come personally.”
Horatio smiled a little.
“Two cops are missing. We can help. It’s as simple as that, Sir.”
As promised, the first of the Search & Rescue choppers arrived promptly, landing in a clearing half a mile away from the cabin. From it alighted ten officers in all, and three Search dogs. Deakins met them along with Mack and Horatio, to decide on the best plan of action.
“I hope you folks have some idea of where you want us to start searching,” the team lieutenant, Graham Trent, told Deakins. “We came up here with practically no information at all.”
“Okay,” Deakins said. “This is what’s happening. We have two police officers missing up here somewhere. We know they started out at the cabin half a mile back through those trees, but we only have a general idea of the direction they went in. There is another man out there somewhere, a very dangerous individual, who we believe is looking for the two that are missing.”
“To kill them, you mean,” Trent said grimly. “Are you going to offer my team any sort of protection in casewe run into this lunatic?”
Deakins nodded. “I have nearly thirty officers up here. I’ll assign a small team to each of your search teams.”
“Okay, then. Show my pilot what areas you want him to start sweeping, and he can get back in the air. Then we’ll get started on the ground. There are five more teams coming in from elsewhere, and two more choppers, so we’ll be able to cover more ground when they get here.”
Five minutes later the chopper was back in the air, and Deakins, Mack and Horatio led the search officers back to the cabin to begin the search in earnest.
“I don’t suppose you thought to bring any pieces of clothing with you that belong to the two that are missing?” Trent asked, not sounding hopeful.
“As a matter of fact, we did,” Deakins answered. “Bishop?”
Bishop came forward with two sealed plastic bags. In one was a blue tank top, and in the other a man’s white shirt.
“How’d you get hold of those?” Logan asked in a low voice as she retreated back to his side.
“Eames’ father brought in the tank top for us,” Bishop answered.
“And what, you went through Goren’s locker?”
She shook her head.
“No. You remember that Deakins sent me on an errand before we left New York to come out here? He sent me to Goren’s apartment to find some piece of clothing that we could use for searching, if it was needed. I pulled that shirt out of his hamper.”
Logan was silent for a moment, considering that.
“You were in Goren’s apartment… You went through his hamper…”
“Stop your brain right there, Logan,” she growled. “I did not go prying through anything, and I took the first thing I found in the hamper, which happened to be that shirt. Then I got out of there.”
“C’mon, Bishop, are you seriously telling me that you didn’t have just one quick poke around?”
She glared at him.
“Well, I guess I just didn’t feel I could afford to waste any time, unlike you. Two lives are at stake here, and you’re having a go at me because I didn’t go prying through Goren’s personal things? You really are unbelievable.”
Logan held up his hands defensively.
“You can’t blame me for being curious, can you? I mean, I bet his place is full of books. Did you see heaps of books while you were there?”
She glowered at the ground. If he didn’t shut up soon, she was going to hit him.
“I wasn’t looking for books, Logan. I was looking for a piece of clothing that we could use that might help us find him before he gets sent back to us in a body bag!”
Her voice had risen to a shout, and abrupt silence fell as several people turned to stare at them.
“I think we’d better get moving,” Mack said, eyeing the two of them piercingly before turning back to Deakins and the Search and Rescue teams. Deakins nodded, also shooting a threatening look in Bishop and Logan’s direction before returning his attention to Trent. It was a look that had them both cringing, a look that warned he would take them to task sooner or later.
“I’ll assign three officers and a CSI to each of your search teams. Is that satisfactory?”
“That’s fine. We’ll start one team inside the cabin, the second around the general perimeter, and the third over there at the spot where you found the blood last night. We’ll see where that leads us, and then when the rest of the teams arrive we’ll decide how to go about widening the search. Okay, let’s go.”
“Okay,” the handler said as the dog finally pulled away in a particular direction, away from the cabin. “She’s found something.”
“Let’s go, then,” Deakins growled impatiently.
“Blood,” he announced, crouching down for a closer look. “I’d say they stopped here just briefly.”
“So we’re at least heading in the right direction,” Deakins said grimly.
“So which way now?”
The question was answered when the dog suddenly whined aloud, turned and headed off through the trees again, almost at a run. The officers followed, with Horatio, Mack or Calleigh pausing here and there when they spotted blood.
They had travelled less than a mile when they broke out of the trees, and found themselves on the edge of a steep drop.
“Shit, look at that,” Logan muttered, peering over the edge. It was at least a forty foot drop to a narrow body of flowing water far below, with many sharp looking rocks on the way down.
“Where did they go from here?” Horatio wondered aloud.
“Well,” Logan said dryly as he peered across the formidable looking gap, “they sure as hell didn’t jump.”
When several pairs of eyes turned on him, he added quickly, “To the other side, I mean. It’s gotta be at least thirty feet across there. No one could jump that. So they either went right or left, or they backtracked.”
Horatio’s question was finally answered when the dog whined again, and pulled off to the right to lead them along a narrow path.
“If they came along here in the dark, they would have been damned lucky not to have lost their footing and fallen,” Mack said grimly, lookingcarefullyat the ground as they made their way along,searching for some visible evidence that Bobby and Alex had indeed come that way.
“Don’t say that,” Deakins said, his voice starting to sound strained. Mack spared Deakins a sympathetic look, but said nothing.
Towards the rear of the group, Bishop followed in silence, picking her way carefully along the edge of the drop behind Logan. She dared not look down, looking instead to the trees that lined the path on their right. Not that she was afraid of heights, but she was inclined to suffer mild vertigo, and she had no wish to set that off.
So it was that Bishop, the only one not looking down into the ravine or at the ground, spotted the arrow buried in the trunk of the tree.
Deakins halted, and looked back at Bishop, impatience written all over his face.
“What is it, Bishop?”
“It’s an arrow, sir,” she answered grimly. “We’re going the right way. Mathers must have chased them in this direction.”
“But there’s only two sets of footprints here that I can make out,” Calleigh said. She had gone a little ahead, and was crouching on the ground to get a closer look. “Someone wearing shoes… And someone who was barefoot.”
Horatio joined her, also looking closely.
“Only two sets of prints,” he agreed after a long moment. “But three people. The barefoot impression is much deeper into the ground than the impression made by the person wearing shoes.”
Deakins immediately understood what Horatio was saying.
“Goren was carrying Eames.”
Horatio nodded. “He was carrying her.”
“She’s definitely hurt, then,” Logan muttered. “That had to be her blood we saw on the ground.”
Deakins looked to the handler.
“Let’s keep moving.”
It was painfully obvious to all of them what had happened. The barefoot imprints on the soft ground led all the way to the very edge of the outcrop, and there was a distinct spatter of blood on the ground where both the footprints and the ground came to a very abrupt end.
“Oh no,” Mack muttered.
“Please tell me they didn’t go over,” Deakins said softly, his heart and his hopes sinking. Calleigh moved as close to the edge as she dared, taking care to hold tightly to Horatio’s hand should the ground give way beneath her. She peered over the edge, and got the confirmation that none of them wanted.
“There’s blood,” she called out grimly. “At least one of them went over. It looks like water directly below, so they could have survived the fall, but from this height… and with the injuries they might both already have…”
“It isn’t likely,” Deakins concluded, his face going grey as he fought to grasp the realisation that Bobby and Alex were probably already dead.
“Hey,” Logan growled. “We aren’t quitting until we know for sure. I don’t know about anyone else, but I’m not giving up until I lay eyes on their bodies. Until that moment, as far as I’m concerned, they’re both still alive.”
“Logan’s right,” Mack said quietly. “We can’t discount anything, Captain. Until we actually see…”
Mack trailed off as a new sound reached them, cutting harshly through the otherwise silent morning air. Eerily reminiscent of the night before, the echoes of a scream of pain floated up from somewhere distant down below, borne up to them on the early morning breeze. This time, though, it was not a female sound, but a distinctly male cry.
“Bobby,” Deakins whispered, both stunned and horrified. “They’re still alive…”
“One of them is, at least,” Mack said. “And now we have a good idea of which direction to head in. We have to get down there, as soon as possible.”
“Which way?” Deakins demanded of the Search team leader. The man indicated back over his shoulder.
“The quickest way will be to get back to the cabin, and catch a ride with one of the two choppers that are coming in. Otherwise it’ll be a three hour hike to get down there.”
“We don’t have that sort of time to waste,” Mack said grimly, and Horatio nodded in agreement.
“I think it’s a fairly safe bet that if we could hear that, so could Erik Mathers.”
“And he’s probably a lot closer to them than we are,” Logan surmised.
A new sound reached them, the faint sound of chopper blades beating the air from some distance away.
“C’mon,” Deakins said tensely. “Everyone back to the cabin, now.”
“Do you have any idea which direction we’re going in?” Alex asked softly. Bobby shook his head reluctantly.
“Not really. I think we might be heading north, but I don’t know for sure.”
Alex fell silent, not saying what she felt like saying – that they could be wandering in circles for all they knew. Bobby regarded her with a small smile.
“We’re not walking in circles. Don’t worry about that. That’s one thing I am sure of.”
She looked at him, mildly irritated.
“What are you, psychic?”
He laughed softly. “No… I just know you too well. That was written all over your face.”
She frowned half-heartedly at him.
“You probably don’t know me half as well as you think you do, Robert Goren.”
He raised an eyebrow slightly.
“Is that a challenge, Alexandra Eames?”
She smirked, then.
“If you want it to be.”
“So what, we’re going to start playing twenty questions?” he asked in amusement. She shrugged lopsidedly.
“I’ll ask a question about myself, and if you get the answer right, then you can ask a question about yourself. But if you getmy questionwrong, I score a point, and I get to ask a second question. Same deal if I get your question wrong.”
Bobby fought back the urge to laugh. This could prove interesting, and it might just provide them both with a welcome distraction from the severe pain they were both in.
“Okay. Ask away, Detective.”
“What’s my favourite colour?”
He did laugh at that.
“Easy. Red. What’s mine?”
She rolled her eyes.
“Blue. Or turquoise, if you want to be technical.”
He looked genuinely surprised, and she grinned wickedly at him.
“What’s my favourite kind of music?”
“Rhythm and Blues,” Bobby answered confidently. “Um…”
“What’s the matter?” she asked in a saccharine sweet voice. “Can’t think of something to ask about yourself?”
“What’s my older brother’s name?”
Alex rolled her eyes.
“Richard. Damn, Bobby, if you aren’t going to challenge me…”
“How did you know his name is Richard?” Bobby asked, surprised. “I’ve never talked about him to you.”
“For your information, you dope, your brother happens to be listed as your next of kin for the Department to contact if anything happens to you. Deakins had me check out any other family you had after he found out about your mom.”
Bobby fell silent, staring intently at the ground. Alex watched him, feeling the first twinges of concern that perhaps she’d overstepped some invisible boundary.
“I didn’t do it to pry, Bobby. We all have to have someone listed that can be contacted. You know that.”
“It’s okay,” he mumbled, though he still wouldn’t look at her. “It’s just… I never really got along with him, and I haven’t seen him since Dad’s funeral.”
“He never visits your mother?”
“No. He never could cope with her illness. He cleared out of home as soon as he had the chance. Got himself a sports scholarship to a college in another state, and never came home again.”
Alex sighed faintly. “He got a scholarship, and a ticket out, and you got left to look after your mom.”
Bobby did look at her, then, a smile touching his lips at her frank assessment of the situation. She grinned back at him, and they both felt their spirits lift a little.
“Your turn,” he told, a more genuine smile on his face.
“Okay… What’s my favourite drink?”
Bobby started to reply, then stopped. A grin flickered across his face.
“I almost said margarita, but that’s not right, is it?”
She merely smiled at him, saying nothing. Bobby hesitated, racking his brains for the right answer. Nearly a minute passed, and Alex was starting to think she’d scored one up on him, when his face lit up.
“I know. Champagne.”
Alex shook her head in mock annoyance.
“Damn. Nearly had you with that one. Okay, smart guy. Your turn.”
Bobby flashed her a wicked grin.
“What’s my favourite book?”
She stared at him incredulously. “You mean you actually have one particular favourite?”
He grinned at her playfully.
“Sure. Are you saying you don’t know what it is?”
Alex frowned, mulling over the question in her mind. Finally she groaned, and threw out the first title she could think of.
“Oh, I don’t know. Winnie the Pooh?”
She looked back at him, positive she was wrong, only to find him staring at her in total disbelief.
“You mean… That is your favourite book? Are you serious?”
His cheeks had gone noticeably red, she thought in amusement.
“I always liked it because there was nothing more to it than what was on the surface… It’s just a simple story, that’s all.”
Alex nodded, suddenly understanding.
“It’s something that doesn’t need analysing. Is that it?”
He looked positively sheepish.
Alex smiled faintly, deciding to store that little gem away for later use.
“Okay. I admit that was just a guess, but I still got it right, so it’s my turn. Um… Let me think…”
Bobby was about to throw a teasing comment at her when a new sound reached their ears. They both looked up at the same time, caught by surprise by the unexpected sound.
“Is that what I think it is…?” Alex asked softly, hardly daring to hope. Bobby got unsteadily to his feet, shuddering a little as fresh pain surged through his legs.
“A helicopter. It’s a helicopter.”
“You think they might be looking for us?” she asked.
“God, I hope so,” Bobby muttered. “Come on, Alex. We have to get moving. If it is a search chopper, they’ll never spot us here.”
She got up, leaning heavily on the stick for support.
“Okay, I’m ready. Let’s go.”
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